Vegas experts lend hand to anxious Colorado casinos |

Vegas experts lend hand to anxious Colorado casinos

Andy Vuong
The Denver Post

Colorado casinos are turning to Las Vegas gambling veterans in preparation for an anticipated influx of higher-stakes players and savvier cheaters when bet limits rise statewide this summer.

They’re bringing in people such as Jimmy Payne, the former boss of the high-limit pits at the Hard Rock and Bellagio casinos.

“If there’s a $5 mistake, that really doesn’t affect the bottom line too much,” said Payne, now the table-games director for three Black Hawk casinos operated by Golden Gaming. “But once you start talking about the higher limits, a mistake could cost you a little bit of money. On roulette, you could have a $3,500 mistake.”

On July 2, casinos will raise bet limits from $5 to $100, expand to 24-hour operations, and add craps and roulette-table games ” all changes approved by Colorado voters last year.

Though the $100 limit won’t attract “whales” ” gamblers who may win or lose upward of $1 million in a single night ” it will still lead to a new wave of worries for Colorado gambling officials.

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The state Division of Gaming will require more cash to be available on the casino floor because of the higher limits. With a $5-maximum bet, most casinos are mandated to have $1,800 in cash on hand for each blackjack-table game. Regulators haven’t finalized how much additional cash will be required under the new stakes, but they do know that bigger bucks bring on bigger scams.

“If the casino is going to be opened longer and there’s going to be more money available, the potential for cheats is going to increase,” said Don Burmania, a spokesman for the Gaming Division.

Card counters, who aren’t a concern with a $5-maximum bet, are expected to show up. Casino officials also are concerned about “advantage players,” or “cross-roaders.”

“Those guys are the ones that concern me the most,” Payne said. “A cross-roader is a guy who makes a living taking advantage of weak spots in the casino.”

An example of a common weak spot is a dealer who doesn’t know the exact payout on every bet in games such as roulette or craps.

“Roulette and craps are two of the more complicated games in the industry,” said Nevada-based consultant Bill Zender, who co-owned the now-defunct Aladdin casino in Las Vegas in the 1990s.

Zender is training Colorado regulators this month on the new games and how to spot cheaters and thieves. The Gaming Division hired 13 new investigators and auditors to deal with the changes.

Several casinos are beefing up their staff by about 100 positions. Many have been filled with seasoned veterans familiar with craps, roulette and higher-stakes tables.

Jacobs Entertainment, operator of two Black Hawk casinos, has hired a table-games director from Las Vegas and 10 pit bosses who have worked in higher-limit markets, assistant general manager J.J. Garcia said.

The Isle of Capri Casino in Black Hawk has also turned to veterans for many of its 100 new positions.

Inexperienced dealers are being trained to spot common cheating methods such as “past-post” ” when a bet is surreptitiously slipped onto the table after the outcome has been determined, such as when the roulette ball has dropped into the numbered slot.

Casino managers are studying higher-limit “volatility” ” or how much their wins and losses will swing on any given night.

“They’re not used to players coming in and winning the kinds of money they might win with the increased limits,” said Bob Hannum, a University of Denver statistics professor who will co-host a training seminar for casino officials in June. “The idea is to get a sense of it . . . so they don’t get real nervous when they see a guy win $1,000 in a few hands.”

Understanding the fluctuations can also help casino officials identify potential cheaters.

“One of the things they do to catch cheaters is look at the wins and losses and see if they conform to the mathematics,” Hannum said. “If they don’t, it’s a red flag to start looking more carefully at the game.”

Andy Vuong: 303-954-1209 or

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